I spent the money on Saturday to have my friend Eric from High Gear Cyclery in NJ evaluate my mountain bike riding position (aka: professional bike fit). Turns out everything was way off from having the most efficient pedaling. My feet were too far forward on the pedals. My saddle was too high and also way too far backward.
All those changes resulted in no more knee pains and gave me so much more strength (two things much needed on a singlespeed). It felt wierd at first but I kept an open mind about it. Afterwards I needed to get a ride in to make sure I fent comfortable with this fit prior to racing. I went for a ride near my parents' house Saturday evening for a few hours. What a world of a difference.
The 2nd Annual All-A-Muchy 50k.. This race was a ton of fun last year. The course is 1 giant 30mile loop through the rocky and highly technical Allamuchy State park. It seemed like every 1/4 mile there was some tree we had to go over. And the trees got fairly big. A few of them I had to dismount and jump over with my bike on my shoulders. The rocks just beat you up, hence why I didn't feel good around mile 15-20. The entire race felt like one big rock garden to ride through.
I like the course for there is a le-mans start and about 1/2mile of fireroad before the singletrack. Here you can get a good holeshot into the singletrack. The first singletrack meanders up the mountain. Its tough but if you can hang in there up front once you get on the other side of the mountain you've got a huge gap on everyone behind you. From there it was a lot of singletrack with some doubletrack. Towards the end you wind up descending the climb from the beginning. That feels good for you have a clear idea of where you are and can hammer towards the finish.
Agh... Race day... The race was supposed to start at 8am. It was hovering in and around 30degF. The organizers delayed the start 30mins for some reason. The race started off by us running around these soccer goalposts (ala Le-Mans style) in a field that had a very thick layer of frost on it. Miraculously I found myself in 2nd place right behind Harlan Price as we're running across this field. Got onto the bike and was part of the lead group up the fireroad (Harlan, Tim Dougherty, myself and a few others). Going into the singletrack I still felt really good and was 1st SS.
The lead geared riders attacked shortly after entering the singletrack. I just kept at it with my pace and didn't turn around to see who was behind me. I did hear quite a few people. Shortly thereafter 3 geared riders passed me . No biggie. A couple of switchbacks later I looked back when rounding the turn. I dropped almost everyone.. Except Ray and Topher (two SSrs). Ray went past me claiming I was riding too slow. Topher hung behind me for another few switchbacks. On another turn I bobbled and Topher passed. I then stuck on his wheel the rest of the way up the mountain. Somewhere in there a rider on a rigid Gary Fisher Rig (29r SS) caught up and was talking to me. I forgot his name but remembered him from last year.
Over the top and into the state park... The guy on the rig flatted. Topher took off in persuit of Ray. Now I'm riding solo. A couple of down tree bunny-hops later I see Harlan walking up the trail. What? I didn't even see his bike. This didn't look good. Rounded the turn and Topher was off trail answering the call of nature. He quickly caught up and the two of us set pace for a while with a few geared guys behind us.
This was the key.. Get into the singletrack early. Set a hard pace up the mountain to destroy the group. Then on the backside you've got pretty much your spot for the rest of the race. That was if you could keep up your pace through all the rock gardens and fallen trees Allamuchy has to offer. We're talking super technical riding.
Kept an eye on my watch and used time to gauge distance. Distance was measured assuming I was on track for a 4hour finish. Right after the halfway point was a hefty climb. This was probably the hardest part of the race. The climb wasn't too steep but very rocky. That led to no momentium for me and my SS. I wound up pulling the old "On and off" the bike for a couple of miles.
Now slightly over 2hours into the race I was starting to feel the signs of fatigue. Sore arms. Sloppy riding. It felt like I was riding backwards. I slipped into 6th SS from holding 1st for a while. This was not good, mentally. I tried to hang onto the guy that passed me and put me into 6th but he pulled away. Okay. Straighten up and ride as hard as you can. Clear mind makes better decisions. Drank more Accelerade and popped a few more pills of electrolytes to ward of any cramping. This section (mile 16-20) was difficult. I was awaiting the arrival of this very short, super steep, hill. Once I climbed up that I knew the remainder of the race was smooth sailing and I'd recover. That hill arrived! The only problem was any SSrs that passed me earlier were most likely so far ahead I wouldn't catch them. Hmm.. Either way, Ride hard and see who you encounter.
That is exactly what I did. I was slingshotting back and forth between these two geared riders. One of them finally started cramping and fell back. I caught up to the other. Reassured him the 3rd guy started cramping and he had nothing to worry about. Then followed his wheel for the last 10miles. He rode 99% of what was out there. A very consistent rider. I used him as my measure of constency. If I dismounted to get up this climb or rockgarden and saw him pulling away it was incentive to run and catch back up. This move proved successful.
Maybe 3 miles to go. We're going up the backside of the first climb only to descent the first climb and sprint to the finish. Well. we encountered that rider on the Gary Fisher Rig. He was walking very slowly. Said he was dizzy and felt aweful. I gave him one of my energy gels and kept on going. Shortly thereafter I became worried that gel pack would provide him the energy to pass me. The geared rider (wish I could remember his name) and I turned up the pace so that wouldn't happen.
Now we're into the first climb. All feelings of pain disappeared for now we're about a mile or so from the finish. No brakes down the moutain. Flying! this was good. We caught up to a Team Bulldog / Campmor rider. He was a big guy and carried a lot of momentium down the hill (aka: rolled away from us when the trail turned down the fault line).
Turning onto the flat fire road towards the finish.. we could see the finish. I told the geared rider infront of me to turn it up so we can catch that Campmor rider. A few shifts and he was in his big ring cranking those pedals. I'm now pedaling like a madman with my 32x16 gear ratio to stay on his wheel. Pedaling so hard the rear wheel of my bike was all over the trail. We got within 1/2 a bike length of the Campmor rider when he crossed the finish. Whoa hoo! That was a fun sprint.
I finished in 5th place SS. 18th overall out of close to 200. 4hrs 4mins. I'm happy for I felt great and rode a hard and fast pace most of the race. Payout was good. I got my entrance fee back.
Tim took 1st overall. Topher caught Ray and took 1st SS. Ray came in 2nd SS. Harlan wound up breaking the pedal spindle on one of his CrankBrothers pedals right in half. He was out completely. Such a shame.
That marks the end of my racing season. Now time to rest a bit and train for next year coupled with nice long easy winter rides and some snowboarding.